When a friend or family member has a new baby, it's a time of excitement that we want to share with them. We all love to visit brand new fresh-from-Heaven squishy babies. We want to hold them, breathe them in, and marvel at their tiny fingers and toes. Before you get too excited to rush on over to see the new baby though, I'm willing to bet that the new parents would love for you to stop and think about doing a few things first.
Here's a list of 15 ways you can be the most considerate visitor ever when visiting a brand new baby:
I know it's tempting to park your car in the driveway of the new parents' home and wait for them to arrive home from the hospital, but please don't. Give them some time to come home, settle in, and get a sense of their new normal. The new mom is still recovering from a pretty intense physical experience, whether she had the baby vaginally or by Cesarean, and I bet she'd love some time to be in her own home without an audience for a little while.
The hospital is a pretty intrusive place, and it feels good to be back in your safe place filled with familiarity and privacy. Give the new parents this gift of privacy for a little while, and try not to be offended if they're really grateful for this gift.
14 Think About Your Recent Health History
When you do decide to visit, do a quick health inventory of yourself and those in your family. Have you, or anyone else been sick in the last two weeks? If so, it's best to hold off on visiting the new baby for another week or two. Stomach viruses and cold germs can linger much longer than you think, and you can be contagious even if you're feeling better.
This goes for anyone in your home as well, even if they're not visiting the baby. You might be a carrier of the virus though you're not showing symptoms. Babies have no immunities to these viruses and what is a simple cold for you could be a life threatening situation for an infant.
Even if you're pretty sure that tickle in your throat is an allergy, please, stay home. The new parents will appreciate your efforts to keep them and their new little one safe from getting sick during such a fragile time of life.
13 Wash Your Hands
Going right along with the above topic, it is vital to wash your hands before touching the baby. Even if you just washed them before you left your home, wash them again upon arriving at the baby's house. Think of everything you've touched since you left your home- your steering wheel, car door handle, car keys- all things that are touched numerous times a day after outings to stores and other public places.
Most new parents feel weird about asking you to wash your hands and will be extremely relieved if you do this without them having to make an awkward comment.
For the record, hand sanitizer is great when you're out and about and don't have access to a sink- but when visiting an infant, it's not enough. It doesn't kill some germs, like norovirus, which can be a life and death situation for a newborn.
Take the time and show just how considerate you are to both the parents and little one, and wash your hands in warm soapy water for twenty to thirty seconds. You'll look like the best visitor ever, just from this one simple step, I promise!
12 Call First
This probably goes without saying, but just in case you haven't heard, dropping in unexpectedly to a home with a new baby is really inconsiderate. When you call to see if the time you plan to visit a family with a newborn is a good one, make sure that you're working around their needs and not your wants.
The best time to visit is usually the time when the baby has been fed and has taken a nap. Those first days are all about fifteen to thirty minute increments of the baby being content and then beginning the feeding and sleeping cycle all over again.
Oh, and once you've set up a time to visit that works for you and the family, DON'T BE LATE. I don't know how many times I've heard new moms complain that they worked so hard to get the baby fed, changed, and napped for a visit, only to have the visitors be late and throw off the entire day for the new mom.
Be extra considerate with this, if you're going to be late, call and check to see if the time still works, or reschedule for another day.
11 Ask What They Need
When you call to set up a time to visit, consider asking the new family what they need. Perhaps they're low on diapers or wipes, or mom is almost out of nursing pads. Maybe they could really use laundry detergent or toothpaste. Whatever it is, offer to bring it- getting out of the house with a new baby at home feels impossible sometimes.
If they insist there's nothing they need, consider putting together a basket of items they'll need sooner or later such as diapers, wipes, dish soap, toilet paper- all of those things that they'll need again as soon as they run out. Like I said, getting to the store can feel like qualifying for the Olympics with a newborn, so this act of kindness will be greatly appreciated.
10 Wait For An Offer To Hold the Baby
This one is really dependent on your relationship with the new parents. A new mom might get offended if you don't ask to hold the baby, or she might really be praying that you don't ask at all. The days after birth are a flood of emotions and sometimes fear. A new mom's maternal instincts are on high alert, telling her she needs to protect her tiny baby from just about everything.
A visitor holding her baby might give her internal panic, causing her to worry about everything from pet dander on your clothing, to the perfume you're wearing that her infant is breathing in.
I know, it sounds a bit over-dramatic and crazy, but those postpartum hormones can wreak havoc on new moms. Follow the social cues of the new mom. If she's not offering up her baby to be held, then most likely she'd rather you not ask. A good rule to follow is to focus on the new mom and how she's doing- I bet she'll be so grateful that you care to talk about her for a change.
If she offers to hand over the baby and seems genuine, then by all means, snuggle that baby!
9 Acknowledge Mom With Empathy
Like I've said above, the newborn phase is hard. It just is. The sleep deprivation and emotional cyclone that envelopes new mothers can make life feel simply overwhelming. As a visitor, you've got the power to make her feel like she can overcome the obstacles that loom ahead.
If you're a mother yourself, instead of offering words of wisdom or advice about how to get more sleep, try offering her a dose of genuine empathy. A comment like "I can remember how exhausting this phase was. I felt desperate for sleep and I felt like it was never going to get better. Nursing was so hard and painful too. It got better though, and it will for you too, promise." Empathy wins over advice, every time.
8 Be Honest About Tag-Alongs
If your great aunt from Michigan is visiting and really wants to visit the new baby with you- give the new parents a heads up. It's probably best to just wait to visit until your house guest leaves, but if for some reason it has to happen during this time, then they have the right to know ahead of time, especially if this person is a stranger to them.
I know this seems like common sense, but unfortunately, it isn't. Some people view new babies as entertainment and decide to bring along the whole family, whether they're welcomed or not. Be considerate enough to tell them just who will be visiting, and ask if this is alright with them.
If they hesitate at all, schedule it for another time when it can be a visit with you alone, it will be more enjoyable for everyone.
7 Leave Your Little Kids At Home
I know, I know, your little Ethan just LOVES babies, and he really wants to hold one. Also, how fun will it be to see his reaction to a baby, since you're considering having another yourself? This is not the time to use a new baby as a guinea pig or a prop for an adorable photo.
I know I sound like a buzz kill, but unless the new parents have specifically told you (without you asking) to bring your kids, then leave them home (with a sitter or someone you trust- not alone).
Not only are your little darlings possibly carrying a virus from daycare or the park, they will most likely make your visit less than relaxed. Kids are kids, and want to play with toys and baby things- and the new parents might not appreciate your two year old sitting in the baby's bouncer or chewing his pacifier like a teether.
It's really most considerate to leave your toddlers and younger kids at home while visiting a newborn. Unless, like I said, you have an explicit invitation to bring them.
6 Clean Something
Again, this depends on your relationship with the new parents and what you know of them. If they are close friends or family, then by all means, offer to do some laundry or wash some dishes. Instead of asking "What can I help you with?" Maybe ask specific questions like "Do you have a load of laundry I can throw in while I'm here?" "Can I unload the dishwasher for you?" "How about a quick vacuuming of your living room?"
These simple offers go a long way to make the new parents feel loved and supported, and it makes it so much easier for them to say "That would be GREAT" instead of "No thanks, that's okay." Even if they insist that you don't bother, try to help in some small way before you leave.
5 Keep It Brief
The newborn phase of parenthood is basically repeating the same three steps every thirty minutes to an hour. You're feeding the baby, getting the baby to sleep, and changing diapers on a continuous loop for what feels like an eternity each day. The new mom is getting used to this wash, rinse, repeat cycle and is probably experiencing the pain of recovery, nursing and adjusting to the loss of an old friend she once knew named sleep.
As much as they want to see you, and want you to see their new addition, they also want you to be considerate of their time. If the baby starts to fuss, and mom excuses herself to nurse or change the baby, take this as a cue that it's time to go. Visits of thirty minutes are usually a good length of time. They will be so grateful that you understand how hard these first days as parents can be.
4 Take Your Shoes Off (If They Do)
Some families are "no-shoes-in-the-house-" families. There are many reasons for this, but most of the time it's a matter of keeping floors as clean as possible, especially if little ones are present.
My kids drop food on the floor and eat it before I can stop them (I can't be the only one). Babies roll, crawl, and have tummy time on the floor. No one wants their baby on the same ground that shoes have been on that have walked through parking lots, grocery stores, and who knows what else.
If you see shoes outside of the door, or lined up in the entry way, or if you notice that the parents themselves are shoeless, it is considerate to ask if they'd like your shoes off as well. This simple act of being aware and willing to go along with what the family prefers is so appreciated. It saves the parents the awkward moment of asking you to remove your shoes, or worse yet, cringing to themselves as you walk across the carpet their kids play on with your dirty shoes.
3 Don't Forget the Siblings!
If the new baby has a big brother or sister, and you are bringing a gift for the baby, please bring something small for the sibling. The transition of having a new baby in the house is hard on other children in the home, especially if this is their first sibling. Time that used to be theirs alone with mom and dad is now shared, and the majority of it seems to be going to this wrinkly faced screamer that just showed up one day.
Make a big deal out of what a great big brother or sister they are, and let your attention go to them first- not the baby. A small gift of toys from the dollar store goes a long way in helping an older sibling to feel special and included- and believe me when I say, you are actually doing the parents a huge favor here.
Also, don't be offended if you only brought a gift for the baby and the parents allow the sibling to open it. This is one way they're trying to soften the blow and help them to feel special.
2 Bring Food
The last thing new parents want to think about is what to make for meals. All of their time is spent feeding the baby, and any other children, and feeding themselves often falls to the bottom of the To-Do list.
Do them a favor and bring them a meal. Think of something you can buy or make that will be easy for them to heat up and serve themselves quickly. You might also consider picking up a few gift cards to their favorite restaurant so they can pick up some take-out and not worry about their budget.
You might also think of bringing quick breakfast items like muffins, pastries, or lactation cookies for the new mom if she's nursing, to help with milk supply. These simple acts of thoughtfulness can mean the world to a family adjusting to life with a new baby, and I can almost guarantee that when you are in need of something the thoughtfulness will be returned.
1 Bring A Sense Of Normalcy
When I had my first baby, it felt like my life was unrecognizable. Nothing felt normal, it felt like overnight I was saddled with the weight of the world (or the responsibility of keeping another human safe and alive- which is kind of the same thing), and I was dealing with an emotional hangover from all of the change.
It was an incredibly blissful time, but sometimes? It was just hard and scary. Who was I now? Would life ever feel normal again? And then a friend of mine did something that made all the difference in the world.
She rang my doorbell, and left before I could answer it. What I found on the doorstep was a plate of fiber-rich muffins (hello postpartum constipation cure), and my favorite magazine. It wasn't a parenting or baby magazine, but one that I loved indulging in on Saturday mornings long before babies were ever on the horizon.
This seemingly small gesture wasn't small to me. It reminded me that I was still me. My friend gave me a gentle reminder that a lot had changed, but not everything- and it was all going to be okay.
So, if you feel like the new mom in question might need this same reminder? Do this for her. Leave her something that she used to love before the baby products and baby books took over her life. I can promise you that you'll be giving her something she didn't know she needed- a piece of her pre-baby self back.
If you keep all of these considerations in mind when visiting a new baby, you are almost guaranteed to be the best visitor ever. You might even get the reward of babysitting one day!